5:22! (Or, 29.3)

I did everything I could to prepare.  I had laid out my clothes, packed my Gear check — EVERYTHING except one important bit — I didn’t check the buses to see if they were being diverted.  I didn’t figure they’d be diverted onto the 40th Street Bridge – but sure enough, they were.  Which meant, ‘getting to the starting line’ really was a large part of my challenge!  So I jogged / walked to the starting line, obviously concerned that I’d get there too late.

I got to the starting ‘area’ (blocks of downtown were flooded with thousands of runners and spectators), and fought my way towards where I thought gear check was.  I bumped into another runner looking for the same, and we fought our way up to the corral — I stopped short of forcing my way through.  Instead, I found a Course Marshall (thank you, whoever you are), who got me to Gear Check, where I bumped into Allie!  She was running the marathon relay with her family, and it was awesome to collect a hug when I was in such a nervous state.

Hug collected, I checked my gear, and made my way back towards corral E, but I couldn’t get through the crowd of corral D.  Then I spied the port-a-johns, and ran off for a quick pee (whew!).  When I exited, Viola!  There was Corral E!  YAY!  So I ended up crossing the start around 7:17.  Okay, exactly at 7:17.

One of my favorite signs was right at the beginning.  “You’ve trained longer than Kim Kardashian was married!” it declared.  More than one person chuckled.  As we ran through the tunnel, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE started hooping and hollering — the echoes were insane, and awesome.  It was a crowd full of people just pumped up to be there.   It was around here that I saw the sign that said “Pain is Temporary, Finishing is Forever” and that stuck with me.  Because it’s true.

I was definitely worried about food.  I was used to having some bananas and a Kind Bar during my training runs, and I had a sinking (and correct) feeling that I simply wasn’t going to end up eating enough.  I was pretty much forced to use Gu (tastes nasty, but I can get over it,) and it wreaked havoc on my stomach.  The Orange slices, however, were awesome.  Funny how quickly I went from worrying about the water at the marathon to taking orange slices from strangers!

Around mile 10, I saw Alex from work (I saw him first when he took this picture:

It’s when he took that picture that I recognized him.  The way I’m holding my hands tells me I was trying to figure out how I was going to get orange goop off of me 🙂  I was squinting because I was thinking “HEY I KNOW THAT GUY!”  After I got his attention,  he took another picture

and he went on to go to the left, since this is where the marathon split the runners of the half from the runners of the full.  
The 11th mile, which was a concern for every single person running the full ,was as nasty as the elevation chart had promised.  THAT HILL.
Once we got through that hill, running Oakland through Pitt was practically cake.  The drum line there was awesome, and really helped get the feet moving.  That’s when I first met Buff Woman (another woman who was wearing a buff). 
It was ungodly hot by the time we rounded into Homewood.  I walked with one girl for a while, just to perk up her spirits.  She seemed winded.  She was another Pittsburgh runner, and we commiserated that the weather had been so brutally cold for so long, that we had never really had a long run in the ridiculous heat like we found ourselves in that day.  Homewood had to be one of my favorite neighborhoods.  Between all the people out there yelling for us, and the oranges, and the churches, it was really awesome. 
Near East Liberty / Highland Park (it was nice to run part of my old running route in my first marathon!) I was asked by a kid if I’d please want to get wet?  I said “Sure!” and every person holding a cup doused me in water.  It felt AWESOME and really helped cool me down.  My cooler head, the one that should have tried to protect my phone, just simply wasn’t thinking (the phone is fine, so I have to get some props to that Level Flip Belt for that). 
Coming through Bloomfield, Heather and Kira were waiting (A googly eye sign and a ‘Run Like a Llama’ sign greeted me).  I spent a couple of minutes with them, swallowing down a banana and then another.  They were a sight for sore eyes, and it’s what got me through some of the more dismal moments. 
The longest, hardest part of the race was the 24 – 26 miles.  I was thinking I would see Darren at 24, but I didn’t — he had run off to see me at the finish line (even better).  Even with as hard as it was, I didn’t stop believing I could do it and I was going to make it.  Even though at this point I knew I had already gone through the marathon distance thanks to the bus debacle, I just still moved through.  But that dismal stretch of Liberty Avenue was one of the worst moments of the whole thing — it’s you, your pain, and your desire fighting against each other.  I just knew that I’d prevail, because there was NO CHANCE I was stopping unless a medical official dragged me off the course (I did see a few Ambulances pass by).
Downtown, there were lots of flags set up and I thought maybe the finish line was close – it was hard to deal with hoping that we were there and then know that we weren’t — but then I caught a glimpse of it, just briefly.  And that’s why I tried to kick, but I couldn’t, there just wasn’t anything else in my legs.  I coasted in right behind two guys, got my photo, ran into Buff Woman (and gave a post marathon hug to her), took a pic of my medal and posted it to facebook, and then practically ran right into Darren.  Getting a kiss and hug from him felt SO AMAZING.  We celebrated at Sharp Edge, where Darren snapped this shot of me (I think it’s my favorite from the day, but I haven’t seen any of the official photographs).
But, I learned a lot, so let me go through it all.
1.  I am definitely addicted and am thinking about my second.
2.  I’m going to have to train with Gu.  It would eliminate a lot of the stomach issues.
3.  I need to hug the corners tighter — it would take over a mile off my watch and would give me back about 12 minutes.
4.  I definitely want to get faster.  I used to not care.  Now I really do.  Plus, it was encouraging to see how strong my miles were.
5.  Going to need to figure a way to avoid Gatorade (and the resulting headache from HFCS or the placebo).